HaitiHaiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch is a blog that tracks multinational aid efforts in Haiti with an eye towards ensuring they are oriented towards the needs of the Haitian people, and that aid is not used to undermine Haitians' right to self-determination.

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CBS News reports that it will air an investigation tonight that examines "five major non-profits, what they have spent so far in Haiti, and how they'll track and account for the funds over time." CBS notes that:
There's a storm brewing in Haiti.

Not a storm from the rainy season bearing down, but a storm over why so many are still in dire straits a full four months after the earthquake.

Why so many are facing the ravages of the rainy season without safe shelter to protect them?A storm over how that could be the case when so much international aid has been committed to help the people of Haiti.

...

Critics such as Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic Policy and Research say more money should have been spent up front making sure the population's emergency needs were met. He argues that many donors who dug deep during their own tough times to give, thought they were putting immediate food in people's mouths,  giving immediate medical help, and putting a roof over victims' heads now.
The full show, with details from the investigation is set to air tonight on CBS Evening News, check your local CBS station for air time.

Protesters took to the streets of Port-au-Prince yesterday, reports AP. Thousands of Haitians came to demand that President Preval step down, angered by the decision to stay on an extra three months if elections are not conducted. AP put the number of protesters at 2000, while Reuters reported that police "used tear gas and warning shots to disperse" the crowds. Al Jazeera, looking at the causes of the protest, reported on the perceived political vacuum that has allowed significant powers to be consolidated in the executive branch and international community:

The entire lower house and one-third of the senate are no longer sitting because the earthquake prevented February's legislative elections from taking place.

"Effectively the parliament is ceasing to exist as a governing body and the people on the streets are pretty concerned about that," Al Jazeera's Seb Walker, reporting from Port-au-Prince, said.

"It concentrates power in the hands of the president and the international commission that has been set up with former US president Bill Clinton as a co-chair.

A New York Times editorial today makes some important points regarding Haiti’s next elections, which have yet to be scheduled, and as President Préval suggests he may need to stay on beyond the constitutional limits of his term. The editorial states:
The process must emphasize the greatest possible flexibility and participation by voters and candidates. Displaced people should be allowed to vote where they currently live, not their old destroyed neighborhoods.

Opposition parties will need aid to organize and campaign. In a country where transportation and communication are difficult and expensive, Mr. Préval’s Unity Party should not be given undue advantages.

CNN reports on actor and aid worker Sean Penn’s efforts to save the life of a 15-year-old boy, Oriel, who contracted diphtheria – a story with a tragic end. The report does a good job describing how - despite its fixation on Penn’s personality – that the boy’s life might have been saved had, first, vaccinations been available, and then, second, the antitoxin to treat diphtheria been more easily accessible once Oriel came down with the disease. Yet, as CNN reported, “it took Penn -- even with his star power -- 11 hours to get his hands on one dose.”

CNN describes how Penn, founder of aid agency J/P Haitian Relief Organization who “has been helping manage 50,000 displaced Haitians living in the camp that sprouted on the nine-hole course at the capital's once-exclusive golf club”, has been frustrated by poor coordination, inefficiency, and seemingly unnecessary delays in treating the sick and vaccinating those vulnerable to disease:

The AP reports that Haitian President Rene Preval issued a decree on Tuesday that would extend his for term three months if elections are not held as scheduled. Although the US, UN and OAS have all pledged support for elections, much of the infrastructure was destroyed in the quake. The move was met with anger by opposition lawmakers, Youri Latortue pledged to bring the issue before the supreme court. Unlike previous articles that covered the elections, the AP acknowledges that there were problems with the planned February elections even before the quake:
The electoral council, now operating out of a gym seized in a drug raid, is also embroiled in controversy. Opposition candidates barred from February legislative elections that were canceled after the quake have accused council members of favoring Preval's newly formed Unity party. One council member also faces dismissal on charges of embezzlement.
The article does not say whether the previously excluded political parties will continue to be left off the ballot when the postponed elections do take place, or even if a new registration of candidates and parties will be required before the elections. For more on the electoral council and the excluded parties in February's election, see this, this or this.
Ruth Messinger, president of American Jewish World Service, writes in the Huffington Post that although the plight of Haitians has faded from the media limelight, the situation is no less dire. Messinger writes:
According to the latest UN figures, 1.3 million Haitians have been left homeless by the quake. Some of these Haitians are no longer sleeping in abandoned cars but in flimsy structures fashioned from plastic sheeting and salvaged wood--a minuscule improvement, to say the least. Over 218,000 survivors are living in makeshift camps in Port-au-Prince at immediate grave risk of flooding and landslides.

In the minds of too many of the privileged and the powerful, post-earthquake Haitian society has become little more than a faded photograph. Survivors' shelter and medical needs are no longer in focus or in vogue and too many relief efforts are being shortchanged. Virtually nothing is being done by either the Haitian government or international actors for those who will be flooded out of their squatter camps. Large-scale food aid--often distributed inequitably--has nearly run dry.

Although the Shelter Cluster is reporting that 99.6 percent of those in need have received some sort of shelter, a report from CNN shows just how inadequate that shelter is. CNN reports on the situation on the ground after a downpour Monday night:
At the central plaza in Port-au-Prince, now home to thousands of displaced Haitians, water pelted rows of tents, seeping inside from every direction Monday night. At the Champs de Mars people tried to close shut entrances, some with thin cotton sheets or blankets. Mothers rushed to move children sleeping on the ground.

Suddenly, the constant noise of the street came to a halt, replaced by the thud of monstrous drops falling hard from the sky. The only welcomed sight: gleeful children cooling off after another scorching day.

The water quickly started collecting along the roadside. Aid workers say they fear that constant rain will overflow garbage- and rubble-filled canals, flooding the encampments that have sprouted on their banks.

The situation in some camps could be life threatening.

President Obama signed into law legislation crafted by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) that should provide further debt cancellation for Haiti. The law “directs the Secretary of the Treasury to instruct the U.S. Executive Directors at the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF)” to
1. cancel immediately and completely all debt owed by Haiti to these institutions;
2. suspend Haiti’s debt service payments to the institutions until the debt is canceled completely; and
3. provide additional assistance to Haiti in the form of grants so that Haiti does not accumulate additional debt.
...and also push for “the cancellation of all remaining bilateral, multilateral, and private creditor debt owed by Haiti” and to secure grants, instead of loans, from multilateral lenders for Haiti through January 2015.

The bill should expedite debt cancellation by – among others - the IMF, which has yet to cancel Haiti’s debt, despite various statements by IMF Managing Director, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, regarding a “Marshall Plan for Haiti.”

Frances Robles reports on the American Red Cross in Haiti for the Miami Herald, noting the aid organization is coming under increasing pressure to explain how they are spending the $400 million in donations for Haiti. Robles writes:
But after consuming $106 million in the first 60 days, the Red Cross in the past month has tapped just $5 million more and has come under fire for what critics call anemic spending.

Other aid groups, members of Congress, bloggers and even a former board member are among the growing chorus asking what the Red Cross is doing with such a massive amount of money raised in such a short time.
The American Red Cross plans on spending about half of their donations this year, and the rest over a 3-5 year period, reports Robles. The former board member, Victoria Cummock, had some particularly harsh words for the organization, saying, "That's not disaster relief, that's long-term recovery, and that's not the Red Cross' mission and not the donor intent either."

Robles reports that Cummock, after asking about the Red Cross' relief efforts in Haiti, gave $25,000 to Project Medishare and UNICEF instead.

The three-month report released by the American Red Cross earlier this month raises more questions. According to their own numbers, the Red Cross network had built just 200 latrines in the previous month. Since along with shelter, sanitation provision is a top priority, this seems like a low number. USAID in their most recent update notes that out of a total of 15,300 latrines, just 8,727 have been built. Previous plans had been to build 11,000 by April 15.

Jonathan M. Katz reports for the Associated Press on the glaring gap in services between two camps; Camp Corail and Camp Obama. Camp Corail is the recently opened camp which is housing those that have been relocated, primarily from the Petionville camp. Katz explains:
The organized relocation camp at Corail-Cesselesse has thousands of spacious, hurricane-resistant tents on groomed, graded mountain soil. The settlement three miles (four kilometers) down the road — named after the U.S. president in hopes of getting attention from foreigners — has leaky plastic tarps and wooden sticks pitched on a muddy slope.

Corail has a stocked U.N. World Food Program warehouse for its 3,000-and-counting residents; the more than 8,500 at Camp Obama are desperate for food and water. Corail's entrance is guarded by U.N. peacekeepers and Haitian police. Camp Obama's residents put up a Haitian flag to mark their empty security tent.

On April 17 International Action Ties, via the Haiti Response Coalition, called for an immediate suspension of forced evictions. The group called on authorities to respect the human rights of displaced peoples, efforts would include a moratorium on evictions, an independent monitoring agency and collaboration with community groups. The group notes that the United Nations' Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement have not been followed. The press release begins:

CBS Evening News with Katie Couric continues their Haiti coverage by looking at conditions in the IDP camps. Couric speaks with Dr. Louis Ivers of Partners in Health, who argues that sanitation, shelter, and security are all inadequate. When Katie Couric asks Dr. Ivers what the problem is, Ivers responds:
"Somebody's not doing their job right. Because, if this is as good as we can do, it's certainly not good enough."

The Christian Science Monitor (CSM) reports on relocation efforts ahead of the rainy season. CSM notes that many displaced people have been forced out of their camps, with bulldozers destroying their tents. The article also points to a lack of coordination in the relocation efforts, generally slowing progress and resulting in people having to move multiple times. CSM writes:
For some, the place is called Mais 54 Caradeux. For others, Toto Camp, and yet others still, Toussaint Louverture camp, in honor of the leader of the revolution that led to Haiti’s independence.

Regardless, the future of the 1,507 registered families living on this dusty, rolling terrain is uncertain.

About two weeks ago, government bulldozers showed up after dark and, without warning, began to level the haphazard maze of bed sheets and sticks. People grabbed what they could before their homes toppled.

The Los Angeles Times reported on Sunday about the upcoming rainy season and efforts made in preparation by both aid agencies and the government. While rains have already begun, they are set to increase in both intensity and frequency over the coming months. Despite dire warnings and months of preparation Haiti is still not ready for the rains, reports the Times. Thousands of Haitians are in extremely vulnerable areas, however relocation efforts have been delayed and only just recently have gotten under way. In the meantime, the rains continue to make life miserable in the make shift camps that are home to hundreds of thousands of displaced people. The Los Angeles Times writes:

The rainy season is bearing down, and Haiti is not ready.

Three months after the earthquake killed more than 200,000 people, more than 2.1 million Haitians are still living in tents and under tarps, many on dangerous hillsides and tidal flats.

Ernst Y'Voyelle, 38, studies those clouds warily from his hut clinging to the edge of a ravine in a hillside tent camp where as many as 50,000 people live.

"There's going to be a lot of people buried here," he said.

TransAfrica Forum published a report today from their partners in the Haiti Response Coalition documenting forced evictions and neglect in IDP camps over the last week. The first situation occured at an encampment in Caradeux Delmas 75, Port-au-Prince, which consists of four conjoined camps; Camp Benediction, CCTT, Camp Canaan and Refugee Camp. The Coalition reports:
The Refugee Camp community members reports that they did not receive warning before the large Conseil Nationale Equipements (CNE) bulldozers and graters came to their community with Haitian National Police escorts late on Sunday evening 04APR10, shorts after 7:00pm. With consistency, numerous individuals reported that the uniformed officers first threatened the families with violence if they did not leave their homes immediately. The assesment team was informed that anyone who argued was then forced out with violence. The use of batons were reported, and firearms were discharged into the air.

Deputy UN Secretary General Asha-Rose Migiro, speaking to reports at the UN upon returning from a visit to Haiti said that, "Though commendable progress has been made there since Jan. 12, when the earthquake struck, the situation remains dire," reports Xinhua.

Over three months after the earthquake and with the rainy season already beginning, there is still much to be done. On April 13 Red Cross Federation spokesman Alex Wynter said that the number in need of shelter was raised from 1.3 million to 1.5 million. This means there are still some 300,000 people without shelter. Further, as OCHA noted in their most recent update only about a quarter of households have received any rope or other materials to secure their shelters, which "remains a vital gap in the response" as many thousands of shelters will need to be strengthened for the rains. The rains are often too strong for the tarps, as has been documented by video, and as reported by the International Federation of the Red Cross earlier in the week.

AFP reported yesterday on concerns that the homeless are being forcibly evicted from their settlements. This echoes reports from last week on efforts to force those staying at the Saint Louis de Gonzague school off the grounds. AFP writes:
The aid group Action Against Hunger on Sunday slammed Haiti's forced evictions of hundreds of homeless quake victims from the pitch of the country's national stadium.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) released their updated Situation Report today (PDF). The report reveals that the distribution of shelter materials has reached 90 percent of those in need, and is on track to reach 100 percent by the May 1 goal. Nevertheless, worries remain that even with tarps, the rainy season could still cause an immense disaster. OCHA notes that:
With only 20,243 tool kits reported as distributed and 81,000 households with ropes and fixings provision, this remains a vital gap in the response. A large number of emergency shelters constructed will require strengthening for the rainy season.

On CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 last night they looked at relocation plans, asking the important question, why have things moved so slowly? First CNN correspondent Gary Tuchman travels to the first planned relocation site, which will open on Sunday. Tuchman asks a member of the presidential task force why things have taken so long:
"It ought to be done faster. But you have to coordinate it with the U.S. Army, the Corps of Engineers, with the U.N. people, with the European community, with the Oxfam, all a bunch of actors, together."

The Organization of American States (OAS) announced that they will be sending election observers to prepare and monitor elections in Haiti. Legislative elections had been planned for February, however have been postponed due to the earthquake. Presidential elections are set to take place in the fall as Preval's term ends in February 2011.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) told a Florida radio station upon returning from a congressional trip to Haiti that, "we didn't see the Red Cross anywhere, at all," reports Michael O'Brien for Politico's Blog Briefing Room. O'Brien writes:
The Florida congresswoman said that what she saw gave her pause in recommending the Red Cross as a venue for donations. "I wouldn't say that," she said when asked if the Red Cross was the best place for listeners to donate, adding later that she could not "unequivocally" recommend the relief group.

Millions of dollars have flowed into Haiti since a large earthquake devastated its capital, Port au Prince, in late January.


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